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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Belgium worth backing to win inaugural Nations League

Golden generation can land international success

Belgium finished third at the World Cup
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The inaugural Nations League has drawn complaints from some for its complicated format but it is pretty simple at the top end of the competition with 12 teams gunning for glory next summer.

Those 12 teams are split into four groups of three countries with the pool winners meeting at a yet to be determined venue for a knockout competition between the top four nations.

The importance of the trophy to each country is not easy to gauge but Belgium took finishing third at the World Cup incredibly seriously and this looks a realistic option for their golden generation to bring silverware to a success-starved nation.

They had an open-top bus parade for collecting the bronze in Russia and Roberto Martinez selected all of his big guns to make sure they won the medal match against England, so presumably they will remain highly motivated for this new competition.

Belgium have been handed a soft group alongside Switzerland and Iceland, which should be no problem for a squad containing Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens, while Kevin De Bruyne will improve the talent pool further on his return from injury.

While the Red Devils should come through Group 2 easily enough there are more difficult draws elsewhere, most notably in Group 1 where Germany, France and Holland do battle.

Germany need to recover from a shocking World Cup, France may not be overly fussed having been crowned world champions and the Dutch have been handed a stinker of a draw.

Spain deserve to be odds-on favourites in Group 4 under new boss Luis Enrique. England tend to struggle when upped in class and World Cup finalists Croatia are weakened by the retirements of Danijel Subasic and Mario Mandzukic.

Group 3 is balanced with Italy, Poland and Portugal in contention and punters should note that all three nations have requested to host the finals next summer, so whoever comes out on top is likely to have home advantage for the knockouts.

Italy, now under Roberto Mancini, could be of most interest with a number of impressive youngsters coming through, particularly as Cristiano Ronaldo won't play for Portugal against the Azzurri.

Belgium to win Nations League
2pts 5-1 general
Italy to win Nations League
1pt 12-1 Sky Bet

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Italy, now under Roberto Mancini, could be of interest
E.W. Terms
Sky bet